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Be An Empowered Consumer

by Freebies4Mom on July 15, 2008 7:49 am

Be an empowered consumer by learning as much as you can about coupons, free samples, store policies, and manufacturer policies. It’s all about standing up for yourself and it might just save you some money! I’ve blogged about several topics that relate to this theme, here is a summary of those.

You Have the Right to Use Your Coupons @Target and @Walmart:
Know the store policies and follow-up with corporate if you believe your store is not following them. Target stores have recently started creating arbitrary policies at individual stores about stacking coupons and accepting printable coupons. Read about how myself and my readers are calling Target corporate for coupon support. Walmart has also been giving some of it’s coupon users trouble with their legitimate coupons. Print Walmart’s coupon policy and carry it with you to back-up your right to use your coupons there.
It’s happened to me enough times that I wrote about how I recommend handling it. Often I find that by speaking to the store manager I am able to resolve the issue on the spot to my satisfaction. Of course following up with corporate is the next step. Some stores form arbitrary policies that do not comply with corporate policies. You have the right to question corporate about your store’s policies.
Help fight the use of fraudulent coupons by never using them. This helps manufacturers and stores continue to issue great coupons for us to use legitimately. You also show be respecting the print limits because they help protect your right to use legitimate coupons.
If you are not satisfied with a product, contact the company (by phone is best, but email works too) to tell them specifically why you are not satisfied. Companies usually appreciate honest feedback from their customers and are often able to offer coupons or replacement of the product you are dissatisfied with.
Don’t ask for every single free sample you run across on the internet. Be smart and follow my tips to identify free sample offers that have a low likelihood of arriving in your mailbox and a high likelihood of sending you some spam. You also should only ask for the free samples you need, it just makes sense. Don’t ask for things you’ll never use, let someone else who is interested in the product get the free sample. If you do end up with free samples you don’t need, please find someone who can use them or donate them to a charity that needs them.
 
Did you know that some companies will even offer you customer service on the free samples they send you? If you receive a damaged sample, or the box arrives missing the actual sample, it’s worth following-up with the company that sent it. In many companies’ eyes, any customer is an important one – even the free sample customers!
What a great concept! You love a product, so ask for some coupons! You will be pleasantly surprised by the results. You can also join a fan club or sign-up for enews and you might get some fun surprises in your mailbox. This concept can also extend to samples. If you have a special interest in a new product, ask for a free sample! It never hurts to ask.

What other tips do you have for being an empowered consumer?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate July 15, 2008 at 8:22 am

I’m a huge fan of Veggie Booty, and I emailed the company to ask if they ever put out any coupons. They don’t, but they sent me some in the mail!

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Anonymous July 15, 2008 at 9:09 am

I don’t know if any of you have had this problem, but last week at CVS I purchased $20+ worth of Oil of Olay procucts for the $10 ECB’s.I just happeened that they had my favorite Olay facial cleanser on clearance for $4 each. So I bought all 3 they had, but when I checked out the clerk told me that clearance items do not count toward ECB’s and she wouldn’t budge. So I went home and emailed CVS Customer Care and got an email back from them apologizing for what happened and saying that the cleansers did count!!! So I printed out the email and yesterday went back to CVS and got my $10 ECB’s. If you have this problem insist they call Customer Service. Judy

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Anonymous July 15, 2008 at 3:57 pm

I have read on a few blogs about using a B1G1 coupon with a B1G1 sale to get 2 items free. I tried this yesterday at Walgreens for Loreal shampoo and had a very rude cashier basically accuse me of coupon fraud. Who is right? I never knew you could do that before, but I have seen that mentioned on blogs written by people I consider to be on top of things. Needless to say I was angry about the person being rude but mostly about being accused of doing something fraudulent–any clarification would be appreciated!

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Heather July 15, 2008 at 4:05 pm

When you experience a problem using coupons it is best to talk to the manager (store manager if they are available). You may want to follow-up with the store for clarification about your specific transaction, or call Walgreens corporate.It is my understanding that it is acceptable to use a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” coupon in conjunction with a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” sale. Remember that the store should get reimbursed for that 1 Free shampoo directly from the manufacturer. The other Free shampoo they are offering you as part of their advertised promotion. I honestly think this is a valid transaction and there is nothing that would be considered fraudulent about it. I have done similar transactions at Walgreens without a problem – even with the store manager ringing me up! I think that the problem may be that cashiers are unsure about their store’s coupon policies and when they see a customer getting something for free they think it shouldn’t be allowed (although there are many legitimate ways to get things for free when you use coupons).

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Anonymous July 15, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Wow Heather that was some Great advice! I actually had the same experience as you in Walgreens. I seemed to run into a lot of problems at Walgreens. I had a great cashier who took all of my coupons a few months ago (store and manufacturer) Everything scanned fine, except one Walgreens coupon for Garnier haircolor (seemed strange their own coupon did not take??) When he called the manager, she told the cashier that “they” are using too many coupons and want everything for free. I, informed her that Walgreens and the manufacturer both publicated the coupon for customer use and that I was going to use it. Then she scrutinized every coupon which many were already in coupon folder and asking me where I got them. Finally she did not take my coupon for the $5 off 20. Which the origional cashieer already took off. So I told her to remove a few items because I was not going to take them since I could not use the $5 off 20. I called corporate and the Store manager called me back and told me to come back when he was working and he would take the $5 off 20 even though the sale was off.It pays to speak up!

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Michelle at Bargains 4 Detroit & Beyond July 15, 2008 at 9:30 pm

I think it’s also important for consumers to know, at least in passing, the laws that protect them. I wrote about some incidents from my life where store employees tried to circumvent the Michigan “Scanner Law”. I printed it out and keep a copy in my coupon caddy now. If you look on your state’s website (usually http://www.yourstate.gov) you should be able to find links to consumer protection laws. Most states have some sort of law governing automatic checkout systems and searching “scanner law” usually brings it up. I find that many cashiers don’t understand that law or even know it exists.

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Jennifer in MI July 16, 2008 at 10:48 am

I had an incident at Target last week. I had a manufacturer bogo free coupon and a Target $1 off. The cashier stated I couldn’t use it. I informed her that I can. She asked 2 other people and grumbled and used both.

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mama2a&b July 17, 2008 at 9:59 am

Sometimes it pays to ask for the price you want. I just called to cancel my Sunday newspaper subscription because it was higher than the newstand price. Turns out they will give it to me for the “new subscriber” rate again — a savings of 85 cents per paper!

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Karen October 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I don’t know if you know this or not but there is an CEO called Bud Miller at CIC alexandria who is basically sending letters to all stores to stop accepting internet coupons because of risk of fraud.He is telling them that the risk outweights the benefits.I’m not sure about the enpowered consumer thing.Is using internet coupons a right?

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Heather October 1, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Karen – Every store has a different policy. But if you shop at a store that has a policy that they accept internet printed coupon, then yes you have the right to use coupons at that store. Many times having a coupon turned down by a cashier is not a case of concerns regarding coupon fraud, but simply the cashier being misinformed about the store’s current policy. I just want my readers to know what their store’s policy is and question them if they have problems using coupons. I’m not familiar with the fraud alert letter you refer to, but I’ll Google it and see what I find.

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Anonymous October 23, 2008 at 5:19 pm

okay I am new at this and I was wonering what the ECB was at CVS. sorry for the dumb question…

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Heather October 23, 2008 at 6:18 pm

ECB=Extra Care Bucks Visit CVS.com for more information about how their store loyalty rewards program works.

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Anonymous November 6, 2008 at 11:37 am

My advice to avoid coupon rejection:1)Print all internet coupons in color. I called coupons.com and bricks and they said they do not have to be in color as long as they are not a copy but cashiers look at the black and white strange and question you (at the end they took them) but I just hate being held up so I print them all in color.2)Only print coupons that have tracking numbers or individual sereal numbers so if there is a question you can point out to them that each of these have a unique coupon number so they can be verified.3)Do not print PDF coupons or “print as many as you like coupons” I am very careful if I print a PDF coupon. Since there is not way for the manufacturer to limit the number redeemed. I do not feel confortable redeeming PDF coupons especially if they are posted an another site ir e-mailed. If it does not come from any of the 3 top online coupon companies like bricks or coupons.com, ect, i just simply pass up the deal.4)If I hit the “back” button and print an internet printable a second time, I try to just redeem one per cashieer. A lot of times if the cashier sees you have the same internet printable more than one time he/she will think it is a copy even if it is in color. I will then have to point out that each one has a unique number (and then they will accept it) but why bother with the hasstle. I like everything to run as smooth as possible. So that is it What do you all think? Good advice?

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Heather November 6, 2008 at 11:39 am

Response to Comment #13 – Great advice! That helps eliminate any questions – it a more conservative approach, but that’s what you have to do if cashiers question your coupons.-HeatherFreebies 4 Mom

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Anonymous January 6, 2009 at 8:42 pm

For the first time, I printed out a few coupons from coupons.com and my local grocery store (WinCo) would not accept them. I was told by the cashier that they don’t accept them because they get too many fraudulent ones. Are they valid coupons? Thanks, Janet

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Heather January 6, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Response to Comment #15 – Yes, coupons printed at Coupons.com are perfectly legitimate and I use them every week at several grocery stores in my area without any problems. If your grocery store normally accepts printable coupons, but you have a problem on a specific visit then you need to follow-up with headquarters to clarify what their coupon policy is. Not all grocery stores accept printable coupons. Some grocery stores have had problems with getting fraudulent coupons submitted. These stores should be training their employees to spot fraudulent coupons. So, please take the time to follow-up with corporate WinCo for clarification on their coupon policy.-HeatherFreebies 4 Mom

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Anonymous January 12, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Hi Heather,I am glad I found your web site and I am learning as I go,But I live in a very small area and I am having trouble getting coupons,I buy a paper everyday,for a month I have got 2 books of coupons.But I don’t have a printer.could you tell me how to go about writing the company to mail them to me.Thank You so much.My email is jgettle@yahoo.com

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Heather January 12, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Response to Comment #17 – The best way to get coupons by mail is to request them in forms already set-up for this. Some coupons can only be requested by mail. But when you see a printable coupon, check out the website where you can print the coupon from, and see if there is a “Help” link or “Request by Mail” link. Many printable coupons can be requested by mail, you just have to look for how to request it. You can also contact your favorite companies and ask them to mail you coupons. The most successful way to make this contact is by calling their 1-800 number which should be easily found on their website.-HeatherFreebies 4 Mom

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Anonymous February 25, 2009 at 7:37 pm

If I have a B2G0 should I be able to use 2/$1 with the B2GO? (all manufactured coupons)

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